By THOMAS FLOYD
Fans expecting their team to nab that missing piece of the MLS Cup puzzle in the Re-Entry Draft on Monday shouldn't get their hopes up.
Last year, clubs used the mechanism to bolster their rosters with the likes of Juan Pablo Angel, Josh Wolff, Jimmy Conrad and Cory Gibbs. But names of that caliber are largely absent from this year's second stage after many of the top players initially listed as available retired (Andy Williams and Santino Quaranta), were traded (Bobby Convey) or signed a new contract to stay put (Bobby Boswell and Ante Jazic).
The field, however, does feature a collection of potentially valuable role players, including Baggio Husidic, Clyde Simms and Hunter Freeman. While the first stage locked selecting clubs into picking up a player's option or matching his 2011 salary (Arturo Alvarez, Danleigh Borman and Carlos Mendes were the only players taken), the second stage provides front offices with greater financial flexibility and thus is expected to be more active.
Once a team selects a player Monday, it will have seven days to extend a genuine contract offer. If the player does not accept, the organization will retain his MLS rights. Anyone not selected will become a free agent.
Here is a rundown of the more intriguing players available in the second stage of the Re-Entry Draft:
Baggio Husidic (Chicago Fire): The attacking midfielder took a step back in his third season, during which he was limited to two assists in 18 games (nine starts) after notching five goals and three assists in a breakout 2010 campaign. But at age 24, Husidic still has plenty of time to round back into form.
Zach Thornton (Chivas USA): Although he was displaced in net by Dan Kennedy, Thornton is just two years removed from claiming Goalkeeper of the Year honors. The 38-year-old could serve as a capable veteran backup for a team that is thin between the posts.
Kevin Burns (Columbus Crew): The 26-year-old holding midfielder is coming off his best season, having appeared in 19 games (15 starts) for Columbus in 2011, though his playing time did substantially diminish as the year wore on.
Jeff Cunningham (Columbus Crew): The league's all-time leading scorer is coming off a tough year in Columbus, during which he bagged just two goals in 21 games (four starts). But a team needing help up top could take a flier on the 35-year-old, who notched 11 goals in 2010 and 17 in 2009, as long as the price is less than the $140,000 he made last year.
Marc Burch (D.C. United): Injuries and inconsistency have limited Burch to starting 15 games the past two seasons after he made 46 starts the two years prior, but it's hard to imagine a 27-year-old left back with his experience not finding a home in MLS. While he underwent foot surgery last month, he is expected to be ready for the start of preseason.
Clyde Simms (D.C. United): Deemed a luxury by a United squad that sees Rookie of the Year finalist Perry Kitchen as its future in defensive midfield, Simms has started at least 28 games three of the past four seasons, including last year. And the 29-year-old also provides a respected locker room presence.
Maicon Santos (FC Dallas): A pure finisher who scored eight goals last year, the Brazilian striker was hoped to be the missing link for Dallas after a midseason trade from Toronto FC. But the chemistry never developed, and he was benched for Dallas' playoff loss to New York.
Hunter Freeman (Houston Dynamo): A ballyhooed signing for Houston last offseason after spending two years in Norway, the 26-year-old made 22 starts before losing his job when Geoff Cameron dropped from midfield into central defense and Andre Hainault slid to right back. He's a useful player — just not at the $150,000 salary he made in 2011.
Frankie Hejduk (Los Angeles Galaxy): The 37-year-old transitioned last year to a role as a reserve for the Galaxy, making just six starts. With his career clearly on its last legs, Hejduk seems like an unlikely candidate for selection.
Dasan Robinson (Los Angeles Galaxy): A right back, Robinson made just three starts last year while playing for three different teams but started 71 matches in the five years prior with Chicago, including 17 in 2010.
Ryan Cochrane (New England Revolution): An early pick in the second stage of last year's Re-Entry Draft, Cochrane made 19 starts for the Revolution in central defense in 2011 but was cut loose as part of New England's attempt to revamp the league's second-worst defense. Cochrane, 28, made just $70,000 last year, so he could be a bargain for a team lacking depth in the back.
Pat Phelan (New England Revolution): The hard-nosed defensive midfielder has started 53 games over the past three seasons for the Revolution and collected just $60,000 in 2011, making him an affordable choice for any club looking for an insurance policy at the position.
Chris Albright (New York Red Bulls): Injuries have limited Albright to six or fewer starts three of the past five seasons. When healthy, the 32-year-old is one the league's better right backs, but he will have to accept a notable decline from the six-digit salary he made in 2011 if he is going to find a new club.
Bouna Coundoul (New York Red Bulls): A beguiling blend of show-stopping saves and horrific gaffes, Coundoul has the tools to be a top-notch goalkeeper but often suffers from poor technique and lapses in concentration. On the plus side, the Senegal native holds a green card that keeps him from occupying an international slot.
Stefani Miglioranzi (Philadelphia Union): A central midfielder also capable of stepping in at center back if needed, Miglioranzi, 34, could still have a couple good years left but is more likely to be a dependable veteran coming off the bench.
Blake Wagner (Real Salt Lake): One of the few enticing young talents available in the draft, the 23-year-old right back started 23 games for Dallas in 2008 and, after a USL stint, made nine starts last year while playing for Vancouver and Salt Lake.
Chris Leitch (San Jose Earthquakes): The 32-year-old saw his role with the Earthquakes slowly diminish over the course of his three seasons with San Jose, and last year the right back made just 12 starts.
Jacob Peterson (San Jose Earthquakes): A right-sided midfielder, Peterson has appeared in at least 17 matches every season of his six-year career and can provide a solid set-piece service or ball in from the flank.
Nate Jaqua (Seattle Sounders): After compiling career bests for goals (nine) and starts (27) in 2009, his first season with Seattle, the 6-foot-3 forward has slipped into a reserve role, starting just 10 games total the past two years. And not finding the net in 38 league appearances during that stretch hasn't helped his stock.
Pat Noonan (Seattle Sounders): The onetime U.S. national team regular hasn't been the same player since he left New England after the 2007 season, starting just 27 games in four years with Columbus and Seattle. He does, however, remain a handy utility player considering his ability to play on both flanks and up top.
Shavar Thomas (Sporting Kansas City): The Jamaican started at least 14 matches for the first eight years of his MLS career, including 16 starts in 2010, but he logged just 35 minutes in league play for Kansas City last year. At age 30, Thomas is likely facing a substantial pay cut from the $160,000 he made last year.
Jonathan Leathers (Vancouver Whitecaps): Leathers, who started 21 games last season while collecting just $42,000, presents clubs with another solid, affordable option at right back. On the other hand, the fact that Leathers, with his measly salary, didn't go in the first stage of the Re-Entry Draft would seem to indicate a lack of interest.
Peter Vagenas (Vancouver Whitecaps): The 33-year-old holding midfielder is coming off his best campaign in the past three years, during which he made 13 starts for the Whitecaps. He played for just $48,000 last season and can still provide useful veteran depth.
The rest of the players available in the draft are: Jon Conway, Alec Dufty (Chicago); Andrew Boyens, Chukwudi Chijindu, Simon Elliott, Mariano Trujillo (Chivas); Mike Holody (Columbus); Brandon Barklage, Steve Cronin, Devon McTavish, Joseph Ngwenya, Jed Zayner (D.C.); Maykel Galindo (Dallas); Jason Garey, Eddie Robinson (Houston); Ryan Pore (Montreal); Kheli Dube (New England); Chase Harrison (Philadelphia); Adin Brown, Rodrigo Lopez, Peter Lowry (Portland); Nelson Gonzalez, Rauwshan McKenzie (Salt Lake); Andre Luiz Moreira, Scott Sealy, Andrew Weber (San Jose); Greg Janicki (Vancouver).